Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey. ~Pat Conroy
Today is it, the last full day in Turkey, the last day we will immerse ourselves in Turkish culture, the last day for hanging out with the hospitable Turkish people, the last day for Turkish food, which we have come to adore and must find back home in Chicago or, heaven forbid, I will need to find recipes and learn to cook the delicious faire, at every corner shop, the last day in Asia, the last day in Europe, the last day we will walk amongst some of the most spectacular creations by ancient man on our planet, the last day of a physical, mental, emotional journey that began years too late and ends decades too soon.
The most important part of the journey is that it had a beginning. We took the step to leave the confines of the comfortable US culture where we navigate the daily cultural nuances with nary a thought. We took the step to enter the unknown, bravely visit a new world where we were the outsiders, we were the guests, where we had to adapt our behaviors, where we had to put aside those things we take for common in our own culture and try to adjust our existence to meld with the culture at large.
I could see myself living in Turkey particularly along the West Coast where the Aegean Sea caresses the land repeatedly, continually, nonstop, yesterday, today, and forever. A constant, loving hand depositing the gifts of sand and polished stones of many hues at the feet of the mountain ranges which begin at the seashore and rise quickly to touch the clouds. I could see myself taking a grueling bicycle ride to the clouds in the morning with legs burning and sweat pouring to see an ancient shrine then descending to the ocean in the evening for a refreshing swim in the salt water before a bite to eat and a chai at sunset.
Could I adapt quickly? To the climate a resounding yes. To the culture, to the people? Yes for the culture is vaguely familiar to my own and the Turkish are a welcoming people who, I believe, would help me understand Turkish life. For me, the biggest challenge would be the language for, it is my understanding, the Turkish language is notoriously difficult to learn. It has a grammar structure that requires interpreting every sentence twice, once to understand the subject and once to understand the object of the sentence. The complexity stumps some very adept linguists. But I would put forth the effort to learn.
If I had to make a qualifying statement about this trip, I would say it was a huge success. We were able to see a number of the countries wonders both ancient and modern. We sampled the food (extensively sampled the food and ate enough in the last three days to last us a week) and picked up a few words in the language (not as many as I would have liked). And we met some people with whom we became friends.
The thing about international travel, though, is the measure of success is not so much what you do and see as it is about making the mental trip, the mental transition into acceptance of other’s and their way of life. Success comes by virtue of leaving one’s comfort zone, leaving one’s culture behind and attempting to immerse oneself in another culture, to make one’s way in an unfamiliar world. Success is entirely in the attitude with which one approaches the adventure of international travel.